“Not Being Awake at the Plate” Is A Time Trap Many Women Face That Keeps Their Plates Far Too Full!
What is “Not Being Awake at the Plate”?
“Not being awake at the Plate” is, simply put, when you are in autopilot. Have you ever driven from point A to Point B and forgotten the details of how you arrived? Scarfed down a meal without really enjoying the flavor, texture or surroundings? Do you go through your day without being mindful of routine actions? You are not being present, you are not “awake at the plate” of daily activities.
When we are in autopilot, we lose the joy in our day-to-day lives. Somewhere along the way we lost our child-like sense of wonder. We are going through the day not looking forward too many of these daily tasks:
- Deadlines for a job or school
- What’s for dinner and will I have to make it
- A hard conversation we need to have with a colleague or family member
- Organizing and clearing out a cluttered room in your house
- Constant house chores
We spend our day looking forward to when things are over, when we finally have the weekend. But when the end of the day or week actually comes, we are not any happier. Our impending list of ‘stuff’ still hangs around. When we tune out during our day-to-day, it can be hard to tune back into the moments we want to enjoy.
How does being in autopilot happen?
When we are faced with stress and difficulties and have not learned ways to cope, we tune out. If our plates are full, so we find ways to conserve energy so we can “get it all done”. Strictly speaking, autopilot seems more “economical”. We move through our day doing what we need to do but ignoring how our stress may be affecting our health. We forget to seek out moments of joy and ease. Do you sit with your family for dinner? Do you still practice a hobby you love? Do you have moments away from your phone or computer?
We also have not learned how to let go of our past wounds, so we carry them forward to our present lives without ever addressing them. These can also sap the joy from our days. From chronic pain or discomfort to resentment held against someone or something, these past wounds are burdensome to bear and take more energy than we realize.
It can also happen as we are worrying daily about what will happen in the future. By definition, this is not living in the present. Worry takes us out of what is happening right in front of us.
Q: “What do I need when I am in ‘Not Awake at my Plate’?”
A: You need to slow down, become aware of the present, surround yourself with support and build a spiritual practice.
Ground yourself in daily moments. Learn to relax and unplug from all earth-bound ‘stuff’. It’s as simple as taking a deep breath at a stoplight or committing to not looking at your phone while eating a meal.
Building a spiritual practice is an even bigger step. During a particularly busy season in my life, a yoga teacher of mine told me to go home and simply sit on my mat. I thought, ‘That’s it? This should be easy.’ When the time came for my home practice, I realized I could not remember the last time I had simply sat without doing anything else. It was not easy! I became restless, but it gave me insight into how ‘tuned-out’ I had become.
Our spiritual practice takes time and our spiritual time takes practice. Find time in the morning or evening for meditation or prayer. Bring awareness inwards and sit with your breath. Be patient with yourself in these moments.
Q: How do I slow down and become more present? Where do I find support? How do I build this spiritual practice?
A: Break it all down into daily attainable steps and surround yourself with people who will help you build this practice. It is not a goal to achieve. It is a process that continues to grow with you.
Step 1: Breathe
Meal time is a great place to slow down and become more present. Think about all the cultures and traditions that include prayer before meals or communion. It is to slow down and become more present with God.
I love the analogy from one of my favorite books “The Slow Down Diet” by Marc David: make sure to get plenty of Vitamin O (Oxygen). Begin by sitting down and practice breathing before your meals. Here is a quick tip for breathing to help with stress and overwhelm. It is a great place to start and practice before and during your meals.
Step 2: Eat
Take time to slow down by noticing your food. See it, touch it, and taste it. Try and connect completely with the food and meal that is nourishing your body. The colors and textures, the people with whom you are eating and your conversations. If you find your mind wondering be kind to yourself and let it go. Notice the times you go in autopilot and bring yourself back.
Step 3: Find Support
The greatest change happens when you have support. The key to changing your habit of busyness and being on autopilot is about finding a community that inspires and sustains hope of your ability to change. These can come in the form of partners, mentors, role models or sources of new knowledge (like this one!). These relationships help you learn and practice new habits. This takes a lot of repeating over time before new patterns of behavior become natural.
Mindfulness is not a goal you finally accomplish and check off your to-do list. It is a constant practice. Today, I started a conversation with my daughter and then completely lost my train of thought because I became distracted. Does this happen to you? I was aware of it after the fact and gave myself grace and brought myself back to the present moment.
These steps are not about adding more things on our to-do list. Instead, it is about shifting our perspective and our mindset. Think about all the consequences of continually not being present: forgetting appointments, eating on the run, checking social media too much, and not really listening to others. These can escalate to more dangerous consequences, like texting and driving or the major stress-induced health crisis our culture faces now. We want to show up in the ‘now’ as our true selves and be a great role model for those around us. Being present will give you more time. It may seem like a lot of effort to do this work, but this mindfulness can bring joy back to your life.